Replacing an industry giant is never easy.
Dunlop did it right.
by Keith Culver
I should be working on contracts and reconciling accounts among my 100 other items from my to-do list right now, but I need to take a break and talk about the Dunlop Q5 and Q5s press launch yesterday at Buttonwillow Raceway Park. To say ChampSchool loves the Q3 would be an understatement. We buy and use hundreds of them every year at the school. We regularly have instructors on stock bikes doing laps times (just for fun) that would easily qualify them for a pro national against full out race bikes on slick racing tires. All without the use of any tire warmers. And while we may need to change the rear tire on every MT10 after each school on the instructor bikes, the fronts will last multiple schools, just like the tires on most the students’ rental bikes. They are that good. So when I heard they were being “updated,” I was a bit worried… Mostly about the longevity (and maybe I still am a bit). After all, the Q4 was an update to the Q3+ and although it was as good as racing tires just a few years ago, it (mostly the rear) did not have the longevity of the Q3+ that we needed for school use. Enter the Q5 and Q5s.
The Dunlop Q5 and Q5s are purpose-built, street legal, high performance tires using technology from Dunlop’s MotoAmerica road race tires. The Q5 is the higher performance tire and an evolution of the Q4 tire admired by many track day riders as it borderlines on the performance of race tires without the need for tire warmers. The Q5s, is the evolution of the Q3+ that is slated to provide quicker handling, better longevity in the center of the tire, and more grip on the sides. So, after a day at Buttonwillow circulating way out of my league with the Who’s Who of American Motorcycle Racing and Media, I am very excited about the new offerings from Buffalo, NY.
When I say, out of my league, I mean we arrived and walked into the track office to sign the waiver for the day and on the way out were; Josh Hayes, Cameron Beaubier, and Josh Herrin. When we got in, I turned to Cowboy (Rich Stampp) and said; “We are going to get passed A LOT today!” After parking and doing our hello’s, seeing more go-fast guys and ChampSchool instructors Bryce Prince and Ben Hodges (both wearing ChampSchool shirts, thank you), we set out to get the new sneakers on our bikes. We both wanted to try to Q5s models as they are the new version of the Q3+ giving up a little performance on the Q5 in exchange for longevity.
I brought the new Yamaha MT10sp (gotta bring the premier bike to try out the premier tires) and Cowboy, his Yamaha MT09sp. We knew we were there to test the tires that we would be using for the school and know that if they could hold up to instructor pace on instructor bikes, they would be more than good enough for our students. After all, the Q5s will be the tire we use and the MT10 and 09 will be the instructor bikes so it really was the right combination. The morning was cold so we were in no rush after the 8:30 riders meeting held by Dale Kieffer. Dale is one of the founding instructors from the school and now runs Racer’s Edge Performance which is the west coast distributor for Dunlop as well as does private coaching at Chuckwalla where he is still kicking most of the young racer’s butts on CVMA weekends.
After the riders meeting, the wheels with new tires were put back on the bikes and it was time to see how they held up to the cold mornings of the California desert. I can honestly say the answer to that question is; Better than me. It was chilly! I am not at the level of most of our top instructors and in fact, rarely drag my knee (even on a hot day). I can get around pretty good but leaning towards the safer side of the Safer/Faster tagline, I am pretty conservative to say the least. Where this is leading is a huge compliment to Dunlop.
On the second lap of a cold morning, on an MT10 upright bike, I was dragging knee through Sweeper (the long, double apex right hander in the back section of the track). New tire, quicker warm up time = check! The MT10sp is new to me, as are the new TCX RT-Race boots which are a bit larger overall than the Dainese AXIAL D1 boots I usually wear (and much stiffer) so it took me a good hour to try to get the shift lever in the right position to be able to shift while leaned off the bike and still be able to downshift. I never did get it just right. I really wish the MT10 could reverse shift and still use the quick-shifter like the R1 can. Maybe I’ll tinker with an R1 shifter assembly. Anyway, I digress. So, the new Q5s warms up quicker than the Q3+ and apparently, is more confidence inspiring as it had me comfortably dragging knee on a track I ride relatively often without dragging much at all. New tire, more confidence = check.
At 11:30, we were checkered flagged so that the Superbike teams that were present could test the Q5 tires, to see how they could hold up to the 200+ horsepower superbikes that are looking for an intermediate option for those races where it’s a little wet, but not enough for rain tires. I did not find out how long the tires held up to Superbikes, but I do know these guys were going fast enough to impress everyone in the paddock who know’s what the good laps times are at Buttonwillow. I think I saw Dustin Coyner’s (from TrackDaz and California Racing Association) eyes almost pop out of his head when he read the lap times. New tires, Superbike race level performance = check.
The best part of this downtime, which was lunch for us, was having lunch and listening to Jason Pridmore hold court and tell stories. Jason has been in the race paddock since he was a little kid with his dad being a AMA Superbike Champion in the 70s all the way up to now where his World Endurance Championships and years and years of training racers has molded him to a wonderful TV commentator for the MotoAmerica race series. I think we were in there listening to Jason well after lunch was over. We mentioned Freddie Spencer coming to the school last week, three Freddie Spencer Stories. We mention Scott Russell in some regard, four stories about Scott. Aaron Gobert, Matt Mladin. You name the best, Jason has a story about an experience with them. I was loving it. After lunch, the temps were up into the 60s and it was perfect to get in a lot of laps to test the longevity, and maybe have a little fun with the photographers. After all, just because they encourage Josh Herrin to do wheelies for the camera, doesn’t mean the rest of us couldn’t, right? Rich (Cowboy) and I rode together for a good hour studying each other’s strong and weak points as well as making sure we were close for the photographers. Gotta get some good shots of us in our amazing Dainese Custom suits. It was a lot of fun. Usually, when we are at the same track, we are doing demos in the C group or leading students at the school, so it was fun just riding around having fun for a while. Oh, and evaluating the tires. New tires, fun = check!
One of the sessions, right after we came in, I saw Bryce heading out on his MT-10, so I jumped out behind him. I thought I was ready to start pushing these new round rubber things so having the track record holder on the same bike as me was a good opportunity for me to get up to a pace higher than I normally run. That session was probably the quickest I have ever gone at Buttonwillow on an upright bike and except for the final turn (Sunset) and the first turn (Sunrise) where Bryce would just pull 10-20 bikes lengths on me respectively, I was very happy that I was able to stay close the rest of the lap. Close enough to recognize some things he was doing that I was not. When I am proud of myself for having patience in Sweeper, getting direction and often catching people in front of me or leaving people behind me on the exit, I follow Bryce in there and see there is more room to be more patient and get an even better drive out. Nice. Now if I could only man-up and close that huge 10-20 bike gaps in Sunrise and Sunset, I might actually be interested in knowing my lap times…. Nah. I prefer counting apexes.
The one thing I learned in that session, at that pace, was that it was time for traction control. I had it turned off the entire day so far as I didn’t want the nanny control to limit my feel of the new tire. Up until then, I was impressed with the grip of the tire and when it slid, it was controlled enough to not panic the guy who leans towards safe. At this pace, riding with Bryce (or trying to), I was definitely losing grip a lot more and wishing for just a little TC. Still, super impressed on how much grip these street legal tires have. And these were the “s” models. New tires, more grip = Check.
My last outing on the track after some water and a quick break was the most fun one of the day. Nic de Sena from Ultimate Motorcycling and Troy Siahaan from Motorcycle.com are both very familiar with the school and, both also being on 2022 Yamaha MT10sp models, invited me out to ride with them. Nic is a full time writer and editor, having done articles about coming to YCRS as a student, and Troy, and fast guy from back in the day when Nick (Ienatsch) was still a journalist is still a Road Test Editor, actually did an article from the viewpoint of a guest instructor, so these guys ride bikes for a living and can ride!
This last session did not disappoint. As I was the invited guest, I just jumped out between them as we rode around at a good pace playing as if we were doing a video for an article or something. It was fast, but not competitive. Just fun. Then… bam, Troy passes me into turn one and starts showing Nic a wheel in almost every turn, but Nic did well to hold him off. Then one of the other journalists jumps in between us and it was then, I realized this was just not a photo op. The four of us spent the next 20 minutes passing back and forth like it was a MotoGP race and my smile grew bigger every lap. And don’t worry, we were still evaluating the tires and I can tell you that just turning the TC on to the lowest setting was the perfect decision. It kept the bike in line, gave me more confidence with the throttle on the exits, and somehow still allowed those three gear wheelies down the front straight in tandem with my buddies for this session. New tires, happy place = Check!
A big thanks to Dunlop for allowing this non-pro racing, operations guy from ChampSchool to come and be part of this. It was humbling for sure. I think, since we use and buy so many of these tires, it is good to have someone from the school to be present. While the longevity for school use is still to be determined, I can say with full honestly, that in all other aspects, they knocked it out of the park with these new upgrades to my favorite line of tires.